September 24/06 4:46 am - Espoir Men & Elite Women Road Race Report
Posted by Editor on 09/24/06
2006 Road Worlds - Salzburg, Austria
Elite Women and Espoir Men Road Race Report
Both the Elite Women's and the Espoir Men's road races came down to a sprint finish among a small breakaway group at the Road Worlds on Saturday in Salzburg. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) took the women's title - her second of the year after winning the World 'Cross title back in January in Zeddam (Netherlands), while one of the pre-race favourites - Gerald Ciolek (Germany) - won the men's.
Once again, the weather was perfect, and fans showed up in droves - an estimated 75,000, which is starting to make the predicted 200,000 for the Elite Men's race on Sunday look feasible.
The second of the two climbs on the 22 kilometer circuit is proving to be the decisive one. The steep Gschaiderberg ascent, through the village of Tiefenbach, is wearing on the legs, with breakaway groups forming after the steepest section and consolidating their lead through the twisty streets of Salzburg running up to the finish.
The women's 132 kilometer, six lap race began as expected, with the peloton sticking together. Women's racing tends to follow a predictable pattern of gradual attrition until the last couple of laps, when a decisive attack splits the field and the leaders fight it out until the finish. However, this year Canada's Anne Samplonius decided to shake things up. "I felt pretty good, pretty strong, and I figured that I had nothing to lose. Typically at the Worlds it's wait, wait, wait until two laps to go. So, I thought I would give it a shot."
On the second lap Samplonius attacked, taking Russian Natalia Boyarskaya with her. The duo managed to carve out a maximum lead of 45 seconds over the next two laps before being reeled in as the pace increased.
"If the Russian had been stronger, maybe we would have had a chance to break things up a bit more. But I was asking her (to contribute more) and she kept saying, 'I can't, I can't'. I knew once I was caught it was up to one of the other girls. I was hoping maybe Erinne or Alex could make the next move."
Once Samplonius and Boyarskaya were caught, it was Nicole Cooke (Great Britain), Vos and Nicole Brandli (Switzerland) who were the most aggressive, attacking multiple times until a final group of 15 formed with a little more than one lap remaining. The group also included Priska Doppmann and Annette Beutler (Switzerland), Judith Arndt, Theresa Senff and Trixi Worrack (Germany), Andrea Graus and Christiane Soeder(Austria), Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova, Oenone Wood (Australia), Amber Neben (United States), Noemi Cantele (Italy) and Chantal Beltman (Netherlands).
Wrubleski and Willock were still in the main group from which the final break formed, but both missed the selection. Wrubleski, who was the top Canadian finisher in 23rd place, admitted to being out of position to make the move.
"It was hard. It (the pace) was what I expected it would be, but I'm not really ready yet for pelotons at that pace or that size - it was fast all day. Definitely, it was the highest speed peloton I have ever been in. I didn't have the legs on the hills - I had enough to stay on, but not to do anything. Honestly, I just didn't see the break go; if I had been further up (in the field), maybe I could have gone."
Wrubleski also had a scare at the beginning of the race: "In the first 100 meters, when I put my brakes on, my handlebars slipped around. It scared the crap out of me! I had to stop for the team car (Anne Samplonius says that she radioed back) and then chased back up."
At the front, the leaders quickly opened up a gap, with all the top European nations represented. Arndt tried an attack late in the fifth lap, but was chased down first by Vos and then Cooke, with the rest of the group bridging up. Cooke counterattacked, with Vos and Brandli joining and then passing her. This trio was very dangerous, and Arndt went to the front for her team to bring it back at five kilometers to go.
The pace slowed at this point, as everyone took a breather to look around, and Neben tried her luck, but Beltman jumped on immediately. Next it was Doppman's turn, but Senff covered her. After a couple more aborted efforts the group swept around the final corner into the finishing straight with Arndt going to the front for Worrack. Wood jumped to the right to start the sprint at about 200 meters, with Vos reacting and coming by her 50 meters later. Vos's acceleration was well above the rest of the group, giving her time to look over her shoulder and sit up to coast across the line, arms in the air, followed by Worrack and Cooke.
"I think it was a hard race but I could follow until the last two laps when the small group was formed, and this group could stay away. I thought I had a chance in the sprint but you can't let them go on the hill so it was very hard for me to stay with Cooke and Brandli on the climbs, and we didn't stay away for long. The sprint was also hard but I managed to finish first. I didn't know (the extent of her winning margin). With 150m to go I saw Oenone (Wood, Australia) starting her sprint and so I just sprinted as hard as I could until the finish. I didn't see anyone come past me so I knew then that I had won."
- Vos is, as far as anyone can tell, the first rider to win the 'Cross and Road titles in the same year. She is also a mountain biker and a football (soccer) player - both at a high level, all at the age of 19. "Yes although I am at the end of my (road) season, in four weeks the cyclo-cross season starts which is my winter season. I will have a three week rest and then start again, and after the cyclo-cross season finishes I will have another break before starting again on the road." Brings new meaning to the term 'over achiever'...
- Legendary five time world champion Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (France) was aggressive on the climbs in the first two-thirds of the race before slipping back and eventually pulling out. The French rider, who will turn 48 next month, has over 50 national titles, and won three of her world titles before Vos was born...
The Espoir men's 177 kilometer (8 laps) race was aggressive from the start, with Olympic Points champion Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) attacking on the first lap. Fabio Duarte (Colombia) chased on his own, but never came close to catching the Russian, and was eventually reabsorbed. Ignatiev stretched his lead to 2:45 by the third lap, but constant attacks and counters in the peloton saw him caught by a chase group on the fourth lap, with the peloton back together by the 75 kilometer mark.
The next attack came from Romain Feillu (France), who was joined by an Robert Gesink (Netherlands) and Dario Cataldo (Italy). The trio went a minute clear during the fifth lap, but the Russian team picked up the pace and brought them back so that everything was once again together by the start of lap six. A further attack of 11 riders that included time trial winner Dominique Cornu (Belgium) managed to open a gap before everything was brought back together by the Germans with a lap remaining.
The Germans had been playing it cagey, conserving their energy for the latter part of the race. As the race went up the steep Gschaiderberg climb for the final time, Russian Alexander Khatuntsev made his move. He only gained a few seconds and on the descent a chase group of five riders caught up to him: Jelle Vanendert (Belgium), Francesco Gavazzi (Italy), Gerald Ciolek (Germany), Romain Feillu (France), Robert Gesink (Netherlands). This was the race winning move, with the top teams all represented.
While the gap to the peloton (which had split into a couple of large groups, separated by 30 seconds) never went more than 10 or 12 seconds, it was enough. The Dutch had Jos Van Emden bridge up, and then Gesink attack, but the rest of the group quickly pounced on him, setting the stage for a sprint, with the field breathing down their neck at only 6 seconds.
Ciolek, a stage winner in the Deutschland Tour this year, went straight to the front in the final 150 meters and rode away from the others to take the title, with Feillu overcoming cramps to take silver and while Khatuntsev won bronze.
"It was very difficult for me as I did not know the strengths of my opponents. At the last turn I was in a good position so I did my own sprint in the straight from the leading position. As you know in a bunch sprint there are many things that can happen, which also happened at the national championships. So I thought it might be better to go to the finish with a small group which is why I went with this attack."
"It is great to win here because it is a world championship but it is also very special despite the fact I competed in some of the ProTour calendar, so this is like a confirmation of my ability."
Ciolek joins T-Mobile next year, where he has a two year contract: "The change won't be big, but I just hope T-Mobile will put the championship rings on my jersey! But more importantly for me, I hope this will prove that I am still hungry and motivated to achieve great results."
The Canadian team of Brandon Crichton, Christian Meier, Cam Evans and David Veilleux rode a strong and consistent race, with Evans and Meier finishing in the chasing peloton at six seconds in 47th and 48th respectively. At the start of the final lap all four Canadians were still in the peloton. Veilleux was aggressive in the first two-thirds of the race, always towards the front of the peloton on the Gschaiderberg climb. He was gapped slightly on the final climb and finished 71st, at 35 seconds. Crichton, who was also riding well, was taken out by a UCI official's car, when the driver tried to squeeze by him on the climb where there was no room to be had. Crichton was bumped and went down, with his bike destroyed (Crichton received only minor injuries). He recived a neutral support bike, but his race was effectively over - he finished 128th, over nine minutes back.
Crichton was fuming afterwards: "He decided to pass me on the hill - that was so dumb! It was definitely the wrong moment to try that. For a UCI commissaire to be driving like that is ridiculous."
"It was starting to split in the climb, and I was feeling pretty good," he explained. "In the descent, it would have come all back together, so I wasn't too worried about being a little bit back."
Team director Kris Westwood said later, after mechanics assessed the damage: "Both of Brandon's carbon wheel and his SRM cranks are snapped. It was definitely an expensive little accident." Westwood also said that a chat with UCI official indicated that UCI insurance would likely cover the damage.